A/N Disclaimer - It is my lot in life to own nothing of the Mars 'Verse. But if anyone was wondering what to get me for Christmas...

Chapter One

Veronica was ripped out of sleep by the buzz of the alarm. Groaning, she rolled across the empty side to hit the off button. It felt so damn good to be back in her own bed that she was tempted to play the snooze game. Before she could allow herself to fall back asleep, however, the many meetings she had scheduled today had her stumbling toward the lesser comfort of a hot shower. She stepped out of her tank top and skivs, tossing them into the laundry basket with an experienced throw as she crossed the bedroom.

She stepped into the shower, and then stood gasping under the cold spray to try to wake herself up. The ancient water heater always took a while, but she loved the apartment too much to care. She had learned to use the cold water to her advantage on mornings like this.

Just as the water began to heat, she heard the click of the shower door, followed by strong arms coming around her waist. "Why didn't you wake me up when you came in last night?" he whispered. The sound of his deep voice sent a delicious shiver down her spine, as it always did.

"I was going to, but you looked so peaceful sleeping on the couch. And those dark circles under your eyes said you needed the rest." Turning around, she reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Why weren't you in bed?"

"You know I don't sleep well when you're on assignment, and you haven't been home in three weeks. It's easier to just stay up and work until I crash. Turn around so I can wash your hair." She complied as he poured a healthy amount of shampoo onto his palm, and then began rubbing his hands together.

"How did it go?" he inquired.

She moaned as his fingers worked their way into her hair and massaged her scalp. It wasn't until he stopped that she answered. "Really well. We made a lot of progress, but we still have to go back Monday morning."

It was obvious he had forced his voice to sound casual when he asked,"This last trip was a DEFCON 4, has that changed?"

He grabbed the detachable shower head and slowly rinsed the shampoo from her scalp. When he finished he gave it to her to hold while he worked conditioner through her hair.

Veronica hesitated before answering. The DEFCON system they used had been borrowed from the military. Her work at the FBI was confidential but, if she was honest about when things got dangerous, he accepted that risk was part of the job she loved. Since the majority of her time was spent doing research and stakeouts, she was usually at DEFCON 5, the code for little to no danger. The higher the danger, the lower the DEFCON number, so their system meant he knew the rare times when he should worry.

"We're nearing the end so this next trip is probably a 3, maybe a 2 depending on how it goes," she said, glad she was facing the wall so she missed him react to this news.

His fingers worked the conditioner through her hair for a moment longer than necessary, then he took the shower head from her. After rinsing her hair and replacing the head on its bracket, he reached around her waist to grab the bar of soap. His hands ran it over her wet torso to build up lather before he slowly ran them over her hips, up her back and down her arms.

"I missed you, Jezebel," he murmured.

She smiled at the nickname he had given her about the same time they agreed on the DEFCON system."I missed you, too. But our reconciliation is going to have to wait until tonight. I have to be at the morning meeting in an hour."

Suddenly his hands cupped her breasts, eliciting a gasp from her. The time apart had made her hungry for him, and he didn't make things any easier when he turned her around and gave her a searing kiss. Why couldn't the meeting be later?

"No, you have to be at the meeting in an hour and a half. I set your clock ahead last night." His impish grin made her laugh, pleased at his subterfuge.

"Well then, take me to bed or lose me forever!"

"Just show me the way home, honey," he countered before he reached behind her to turn off the water. He opened the shower door and walked backwards while they kissed, until he fell on the bed and took her with him.

The sheets quickly absorbed the moisture from their skin as they spent the next twenty minutes making up for their long separation…

As she hurried to dress, Veronica asked, "Is it okay if I meet you at Judith's tonight? I have a late meeting and don't want you to miss any part of her retirement party waiting for me."

"How late will you be? She's been my editor forever, and this is her big send off. Plus, I know how cranky you are when you miss cake," he said with a knowing smile.

"I should be getting there before things get in full swing. Maybe eight at the latest? Especially since her place is closer to headquarters than ours." She placed her hand on his shoulder ass she stepped into her shoes. "But if the cake comes early you know to save me slice, right?"

"You come with a badge, a gun and a large dose of revengeful spirit. I know to save you two slices," he chuckled. He pulled on a pair of sweats and sat on the edge of the bed. "I remember what happened when I ate the last fudgesicle."

Veronica secured her hair in a side bun then leaned down, grinned and kissed him quickly. "Milkshakes are better with Tabasco sauce. See you tonight." As she was running for the door she yelled, "I love you!"

"I love you, too!" she heard him yell back, just before she left the apartment.